It’s no secret West Virginia has the country’s highest overdose death rate. And the heroin epidemic is in full force across the state. These facts weren’t lost on legislators who passed several measures earlier this year to help address these drug-related problems. Gov. Jim Justice signed them, and they are now law.
1. Sharing, coordination part of new mission
The Office of Drug Control Policy was created to help facilitate state agencies, health care providers, emergency responders and others in the reporting of suspected or actual overdoses, working toward adding more treatment beds and developing a strategic plan for fighting substance abuse.
2. Additional emphasis on abuse treatment facilities
The goal is to provide additional state-funded beds for treating substance abuse in more locations throughout West Virginia. State Department of Health and Human Resources will oversee regulatory issues such as licensure, as well as the creation of the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund.
3. Employee drug testing redefined
Thanks to the new Safer Workplace Act, employers have greater latitude in administering drug and alcohol testing of applicants and current employees than previously afforded by state law. For example, this testing can be a standard part of a post-accident investigation. Employers who plan to drug test employees must comply with their company’s own written policy that must be given to all workers subject to testing.
4. Fentanyl production, possession
State code now prohibits the unlawful production, delivery, transport into state or possession of fentanyl and its derivatives. It also classifies fentanyl as a Schedule I drug and provides criminal penalties for anyone convicted of a felony charge.
5. Listing additional drugs as controlled substances
Under the new law, the state Board of Pharmacy is charged with letting legislators know which substances should be added (or deleted) from the schedules of controlled substances. Recommendations will be based on several factors including the drug’s potential for abuse, pharmacological effects and history/current pattern of abuse.
6. Chronic pain management
The Legislative Coalition on Chronic Pain Management was created in response to the problems associated with overmedicating pain with opioids and the resulting substance abuse. Part of the goal is to review regulations that are in place for prescribers who deal with pain management, while also protecting citizens from the proliferation of prescription pain medications. Board members will include West Virginia University’s School of Public Health dean, physician who is also a board-certified pain specialist, three additional doctors, a pharmacist, health care consumer, chiropractor and physical therapist.
7. Stricter penalties when drugs cause death
It is now a felony offense to deliver controlled substances or counterfeit controlled substances for an illicit purpose that results in the death of another person. The new law also makes it a criminal offense for failing to seek medical attention for another when jointly involved in illegal use of controlled substances where death occurs.
8. Children and meth don’t mix
There are now stricter penalties for exposing children to methamphetamine manufacturing. Anyone 18 years or older who causes or permits a minor to be present where meth is being made is guilty of a felony and could face prison time as well as a fine.